On Tuesday, July 15th, 7:00 pm at the Ottawa Public Library on Metcalfe Street, join us for a presentation by world-renowned forensic anthropologist and historical crime author, Dr. Debra Komar, on how she uses her modern forensic skills to turn some of Canada’s most notorious historical crimes upside down.
Along with meticulous archival research for her books, Dr. Komar proved the innocence of those who swung at the end of a nineteenth-century hangman’s rope, creating reverberations in the modern-day courtrooms of the country.
This event is free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase.
The Lynching of Peter Wheeler is the second of four books planned by Komar about historic crimes in Canada.The first in the series, The Ballad of Jacob Peck, was released in 2013 to critical acclaim.
The Lynching of Peter Wheeler
“Her body lay broken in the sitting room. Blood pooled thick and glutinous around her head. A container of homemade preserves lay half-eaten beside her, a spoon still cradled inside. The bloody fingerprints on the handle beckoned a sickening thought: her assailant had paused to eat the jam after killing her.”
So begins The Lynching of Peter Wheeler, a shocking story about the state-sanctioned lynching of an innocent outsider wrongfully convicted of killing a teenage white girl in nineteenth-century Nova Scotia.
On a cold winter night in 1896, fourteen-year-old Annie Kempton was home alone having a taste of freedom without parents or family around. Sometime before daylight she was wrenched from her bed, a violent struggle ensued, and her throat was slit.
Peter Wheeler was an itinerant labourer of African descent who had finally found a home in small town Bear River. Uneducated and too trusting of authority, Wheeler was bewildered at the reaction when an inquest witness seemingly pointed out a lie in his testimony.
From then on Wheeler was placed atop the suspect list by authorities, where he stayed until swinging dead from the hangman’s rope.
The Lynching of Peter Wheeler tells the tragic and fascinating story of how an isolated Victorian community, with an unsophisticated inquest panel, was influenced by an arrogant detective who fancied himself a media darling.
With conservative mores left traumatized in the wake of a young girl’s vicious murder, and the salacious headlines splashed across the local newspapers in a yellow journalism war, Wheeler never stood a chance.
Debra Komar spent months meticulously researching in libraries, museums, and archives to prove the hapless Peter Wheeler wasn’t the killer, and examines how authorities denied him justice with a rush to judgement.
She uses her formidable forensic skills along with riveting prose to draw readers into an investigative page-turner that leaves you astonished at the outcome.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Debra Komar is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a practicing forensic anthropologist for over twenty years, Komar has investigated human rights violations for the United Nations and Physicians for Human Rights and testified as an expert witness in The Hague and across North America. She is the author of the book Forensic Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Practice for Oxford University Press (2008). Komar’s first historical crime work, The Ballad of Jacob Peck, was released to critical acclaim in 2013.